~ Laurence Donohue-Greene
What King Crimson did for rock and Voivod did for heavy metal, the quartet of Ned Rothenberg, David Tronzo, Stomu Takeishi and Tony Buck might one day do for improvised music if their performance at Issue Project Room (Nov. 13th) was any indication. The granite rotunda of the Brooklyn venue was transformed into a cyclotron for two stunning sets of music, beams of sound spinning around at hyperspeed. Those that know Tronzo's slide guitar as a warm inviting presence were chilled by its bleak, almost apocalyptic message. Buck's drums and Takeishi's electric fretless effected bass provided searing rhythms over which the guitar and Rothenberg's circular breathed reeds bubbled, volcanic in purpose and execution. When Rothenberg dropped out of any of the four long improvs, the music became metallic and violent; when he reentered some measure of calm was restored though it soon became trigonomic and refractive. If Ornette Coleman innovated the "time, no changes approach to jazz, this quartet's advance was "intensity over time . Buck was the only real architect, creating remarkable textures for the other three musicians to pore over. Takeishi punctuated, his lines and sounds filling holes as quickly as leaving others. Rothenberg's swirls of sounds questioned and implored for some reprieve. Tronzo was the destroyer, his slides acting like strafing gunfire, leaving the audience huddling for safe cover.
Despite the low-ceilinged ambience of the 55Bar and the prototypical post-bop instrumentation (tenor, trumpet, bass and drums), Michael Bates' Outside Sources is far from a typical group (Nov. 2nd). Featuring the leader's upright, saxophonist Ohad Talmor and trumpeter Russ Johnson (fresh from a stand with another bassist, Steve Swallow) and first-time drummer Danny Weiss (sightreading throughout), the quartet played five Bates tunes, each for ten minutes despite, as was pointed out, almost no bass or drum solos. The music was subversive and often surprising. A swing beat was replaced by something more appropriate to thrash metal on "Prodigal . The Middle Eastern strains of "The Well were celebratory not mysterious (perhaps due to a recent trip to Turkey?). "Entrance , the ballad of the set, was neither maudlin nor beautiful but instead was spacious and expansive. "One Equilibrium featured the nifty texture of bowed bass over fast rimshots in its intro plus drastically different grooves under Talmor and Johnson's leads. The closing reworking of a Prokofiev cello work highlighted the band's plangent tones. Though this group has played around town for a couple of years now, Weiss' drums seemed to inspire his three cohorts, Talmor especially playing more inventively than his usual arranging/leading roles allow. And here Bates focused heavily on the resonant quality of the bass and how it can push players around it.
~ Andrey Henkin